Rehab? No, no, no!

Britney and Amy Winehouse are right to refuse rehabilitation, a process designed to neuter the edgy and turn them into Lily Allen-style pop dolls.

Emily Hill

Topics Culture

‘Britney Spears sat back and watched as her Yorkshire terrier puppy pooped on a $6,700 designer gown at a photo shoot for OK! magazine.’

The possibly pregnant star then ‘wiped grease on a designer dress, treating it like “a napkin”, took frequent trips to the bathroom (leaving the door open) and complained that the high-end clothing put together for the 19 July fashion shoot weren’t sexy, short or tight enough… After about three hours, the 25-year-old singer bolted, walking away with more than $14,000 of borrowed apparel.’

OK! magazine spent a heartbreaking day with Britney Spears and witnessed firsthand an emotional cry for help that will leave you shocked and sad’, said OK! editor-in-chief Sarah Ivens, rubbing her hands with glee, as she stared August’s prospective ad sales square in the face.

Lately, people are trying to make out that Britney Spears has gone mad. But they’re quite wrong. Britney is finally sane. For over a decade she maintained abs like steel rods. She gyrated with snakes on every continent. She was prodded, poked about, sprayed with stuff, detoxed, fiddled with, told what to say, do and think and she grinned constantly throughout. This led certain people to comment that, though she may have been the sexiest thing since Marilyn, she had the personality of a log.

Not anymore. These days she’s sticking her tongue out, stripping off to go swimming in her knickers to give the paps something to snap at, eating doughnuts, drinking Malibu in the daytime, assaulting journalists with umbrellas, shaving her head, and announcing that she is the antichrist. Mental breakdown? I don’t think so. It seems to me that, if only she got proper syndication, this could be a genius money-spinner. Pete Doherty has already pioneered something like it over here. Latching on to the British public’s obsession with supermodel Kate Moss – another working-class girl the papers love to slag off – Doherty reportedly made a tidy sum from tipping off journalists about the details of his and Kate’s clandestine meetings. Lately it is has even been alleged that the pictures of Kate snorting cocaine – which almost killed her career when published in the Mirror – were sold by Pete Doherty’s agent James Mullord for £150,000.

But whether Britney is planning something similar, or whether the publicity surrounding her new patterns of behaviour is simply incidental, the last thing she needs – in spite of what everyone says – is to go to rehab. For to go to rehab, and come out of it the other end, fit and proper and back, would be to get sucked back into that doll’s life that she rejected, where she was as hot as Marilyn but as intriguing as a log. There’s no denying the poor hen has had a torrid time of late. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is trying to take her children away. Her mother and management are getting a little pissy about the fact she doesn’t have her steel-rod abs anymore. What she probably needs is to be left alone with her little sons for a while. And Britney herself does not want to go to rehab. So what OK! billed as Britney’s ‘emotional cry for help’ was probably more like an emotional ‘fuck off and leave me alone’.

Amy Winehouse on stage

Another person who, according to present reasoning, ought to be in rehab is British singer Amy Winehouse. It is my own personal theory that everyone who wishes that Amy would go to rehab actually wants her to be neutered. It would be much better, for Winehouse’s health and wellbeing, if she were, say, cheery, fringe-faced pop songstrel Lily Allen, and not Amy Winehouse at all. The biggest hits of both have been about break-ups. Amy wrote an album full of heartbroken complaints to stonking arrangements. Lily felt bad for a while, but then she went ahead and smiled, to cod reggae.

Nowadays, no one is allowed to be miserable. Or very thin. Or very fat. Or very different. They should all be balanced, happy, nourished by Omega-3 supplements. Rage, drunkenness, crying, screaming, feelings of misery, tears of longing – all are now pathologised, to the extent that even creativity (which often springs from all of these things) has come to be seen as a disease. The difference between Lily Allen and Winehouse, or ‘Smile’ and ‘Rehab’, is that one is the equivalent of 😉 in an email and the other comes from somewhere raw and human. Demands to lock Amy up (and every commentator on celebrity matters is urging her strongly, for her own good, to go to rehab) is a way of saying that all the stuff that made her write an amazing album is actually morally wrong and should be expunged from her mind and body. No one explains, of course, how going to rehab would cure all her problems, since her problems appear to be emotional. Maybe they really want her to drink less and suppress her feelings and listen to Lily Allen’s ‘Smile’ on a loop.

Amy Winehouse with her husband

It is true that Winehouse is really thin. It is true that she drinks a lot. Recently she has infuriated the tabloids and many disgruntled fans by cancelling a few gigs at the last minute, citing ‘exhaustion’ while actually being in her Camden local. But if this is all the evidence her caring detractors can muster, it doesn’t sound like a case for rehab to me. She just got married for Christ’s sake. If the love of my life decided to leave the bug-eyed baggage he was previously wedged to for a newly thin me, I probably wouldn’t stir out of a Camden boozer for six months either. I’d be on honeymoon. In fact, unless they’re as thick as tar, the ‘fans’ who whinge about Amy not pitching up to be their wind-up pop monkey for the evening can’t really like her very much. She just wrote a whole album about how her heart withered up and died because the man who has since become her husband was fooling around with someone else. ‘Tears dry on their own’, ‘Wake up alone’, ‘Back to black’ – did the fans even get as far as the song titles? And as for her drink problems, she just wrote that single…oh, you know the one, how does it go again? Oh yes, ‘they’ tried to make her go to rehab, but she said ‘no, no, no’.

And as far as Amy’s health and welfare are concerned – the cuts on her arms, her thinness, her alcoholism – well, the Daily Mail and the Guardian can both shut their (twinned) traps. Debbie Harry was on heroin for most of Blondie. Dusty Springfield was a desperate drunk. Billie Holliday a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a former prostitute. Even Diana Ross was damned skinny in her day. But those are the sadder stories. Ozzy Osbourne, most of Led Zeppelin, Lemmy from Motorhead, the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop – they were all in hopeless states not so very long ago, and now they are revered old musical granddaddies. Has it never occurred to any of the concerned onlookers that Winehouse, with all her problems, and her point-blank refusal to deal with those problems in the manner society demands, may be exercising some old-fashioned rock’n’roll rebellion? That her refusal to go to rehab, instead going home and listening to Ray Charles while ‘dealing with it’ on her own, is possibly something to be admired?

Every heartbroken girl for – at the very least – the next decade, will become unbearable to all her acquaintances by moping about sighing Winehouse lyrics. The girl has made an impact on hearts and minds, which is more than Girls Aloud have ever done. If anything, in comparison with her forebears, Amy is doing just fine. In fact, she’s better than fine. She’s 23, and she has the whole world at her feet. She makes saying no, no, no to rehab look pretty inspired to me.

Emily Hill is staff writer at spiked and a blogger for Dazed and Confused.

Previously on spiked

Brendan O’Neill looked at Brad, Angelina and the rise of ‘celebrity colonialism’ and welcomed us to the People’s Republic of Bono. Mick Hume outlined the importance of trashing celebrity culture. Or read more at spiked issue Celebrity.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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